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The adolescent years are a time of testing boundaries, seeking independence, and for many young adults, drug experimentation. Access is also more accessible than ever, and anyone with a smartphone can order through social media and get drugs delivered, all done anonymously. But when it comes to substance use, popping pills can come with deadly consequences.
According to the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force (NCDTF), it routinely witnesses the devastating impact of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. Investigators respond to dozens of overdose deaths each year, and they’ve watched that number increase as counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl have flooded the region.
In 2019, NCDTF seized 10,066 fentanyl doses. In 2021, that number climbed to 155,738, then nearly doubled in 2022 as NCDTF seized 303,159 doses. The street price for pills ranges from $2 to $10 each, and a single dose can result in death.
As community members themselves, NCDTF investigators have a personal investment in the safety of our region. Not only do they get a firsthand perspective on the harm that fentanyl inflicts, but their work also brings them face-to-face with a sobering reality: this lethal drug impacts people of every age, race, gender, income level, housing status, and lifestyle.
As they continue working to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs in Northern Colorado, investigators are trying to raise awareness and support families impacted by overdose deaths.
In 2021, NCDTF responded to 48 overdose deaths, with fentanyl suspected in 13 of those cases. In 2022, 35 out of the 51 overdose deaths involved suspected fentanyl.
One undercover investigator shared a sentiment that resonated with many of his law enforcement colleagues: “Too often, our society disregards the loved ones who get left behind. It doesn’t matter what choices a person made when they were alive. They were still somebody’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, friend. We can’t forget that.”
When they met the founder of Voices for Awareness at a statewide training in 2022, NCDTF investigators saw an opportunity. The non-profit offers education and provides a platform to memorialize loved ones lost to fentanyl and other drugs. NCDTF investigators developed a business card with information about this program.
They now provide the card to family members following an overdose death. While this resource cannot reverse the irreparable damage done by drugs, it gives families a voice and puts real faces to the fentanyl crisis.
“Law enforcement can’t solve this problem alone,” said NCDTF Commander Lieutenant Mark Hertz. “We need parents to start the discussion at home. We need to help people struggling with addiction access local recovery resources. We need to support grieving families. If we’re going to make an impact, we need our community to turn up the volume on the fentanyl conversation.”